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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA joins the state bioscience trend

UA joins the state  bioscience  trend

The number of bioscience jobs rose in Arizona despite the recession and many at the UA are pushing students to get in on the trend.

Bioscience jobs in Arizona rose 7 percent from 2008 to 2009, while the overall private sector lost 11 percent of its jobs, according to a study commissioned by the Flinn Foundation, a Phoenix-based philanthropic endowment. Jobs in the field have increased 32 percent, compared to the national average of 11, since 2002.

Biosciences includes biochemistry, biomedical engineering, biophysics, botany, cell biology, ecology, food science, forensic science, genetics, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology and zoology.

Arizona isn’t necessarily a leader in bioscience jobs, but it’s one of the nation’s fastest growing states in the area, according to Brad Halvorsen, vice president of communications for the Flinn Foundation.

The UA, Halvorsen added, plays a key role in developing those who want a future in the biosciences industry.

The BIO5 Institute holds annual networking opportunities for students to speak with Arizona bioscience companies.

“”It is such a growing field in Arizona,”” said Heather Ingram, program coordinator of education outreach and training at BIO5. “”Even within departments that you might not connect with the bioindustry field, they are looking at how they can provide opportunities for students and see how they can use their skills.””

Summer internship opportunities with companies like Ventana Medical Systems influence students to get into the field, Ingram said.

State initiatives such as the Arizona Science and Technology Festival, to be held next February, and Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, a long-term state-backed strategy started in 2002, were created to target growth and make Arizona more competitive in the bioscience market. The Arizona Science and Technology Festival, alone, has doubled its number of participating companies from last year’s event.

Ingram said the BIO5 goal is “”to work with students at all age levels to get them excited about science in the hopes that by the time they reach university, they will be pursuing related fields.””

Part of its goal, Halvorsen noted, was boosting federal grants from the National Institutes of Health, which topped $229 million last year.

UA “”is one of the largest generators, if not the largest (of jobs and funding),”” according to Halvorsen, and as a major research university “”has been productive in turning this research into products, spinoff firms and revenues that come back to (campus).””

Halvorsen noted that during a time when other industries shed jobs, Arizona’s bioscience industry “”provided high-wage jobs and helped to strengthen and diversify the economy.””

“”It’s easy to focus on dollar signs and percentages, though just as important is the impact of the biosciences on the health and well being of Arizonans,”” said Jack Jewett, president and CEO of the Flinn Foundation, in a news release. “”We have access to some of the world’s top practitioners and latest innovations, right here in our backyard.””


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